The Golden Calf

August 12, 2016 0 Comments

From now until November, I will be sharing, on this blog site, excerpts from the book I have written (A Daily Bible Study Guide) which will be released later this Fall. My hope is that you will get a "preview" of my book, a taste for what is coming, and in the mean time, be blessed by these Bible Studies.

Scripture Text

“When the people saw that Moses delayed coming down from the mountain, the people gathered together to Aaron, and said to him, ‘Come, make us gods that shall go before us’ . . .So all the people broke off the golden earrings which were in their ears, and brought them to Aaron. And he received the gold from their hand, and he fashioned it with an engraving tool, and made a molded calf. Then they said, ‘This is your God O Israel, that brought you out of the land of Egypt” (Exodus 32:1-4).

The faithfulness of God is best seen against the backdrop of the unfaithfulness of God’s people! It is hard to believe how quickly the people of Israel turned away from the Lord. The erecting of the Golden Calf was a disgustingly gross act of disobedience against the Lord, who had so miraculously delivered them from slavery in Egypt. It seems incomprehensible that the people began to worship a golden calf, an idol made with their own hands. Furthermore, they attributed to this golden calf their glorious salvation from Egypt’s bondage! Unbelievable. What lessons can we learn from this text?

Impatience Causes You to Do Stupid Things

First, there is a great danger, spiritually, that results from impatience. Their rationale, or justification, for fashioning this idol was “they saw Moses was delayed”. Simply stated, they could no longer wait for God, or the man of God. Oh what harm comes to those who fail to wait on the Lord, and decide to take matters into their own hands!

Breaking the Law of God Doesn't Take Long

Second, this tragic account, this sad failure, illustrates the inability of man to keep the laws of God. And why is that? Because in his sinful nature, man has a propensity to disobey and turn from God. Think of it. At the very same moment God was giving the commandment on the top of the mountain: “Thou shalt make no graven images”, the people were doing just that down at the bottom of the mountain. It sure didn't take long for Israel to break the Lord's commandments.

The Audacity of Giving to Others the Glory That Belongs to God

Third, idolatry is anything that takes glory away from God that He alone deserves. Giving the golden calf the “credit” for delivering them from Egypt was more than a sad failure on their part. It was a deliberate and defiant attack upon the goodness, grace, and glory of God. “I am the Lord, that is My name; and My glory I will not give to another” (Isa. 42:8). The Apostle Paul wrote, in Romans 1:23, concerning the depravity of the human race: "They changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image, made like corruptible man, and birds, and four-footed beasts. They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature more than the Creator".

The Unmistakable Elements of Pure Paganism

Before Moses even saw what the people of Israel were up to, he knew something was wrong. He could tell by the sound of the music--a loud, jungle-like sound that he knew was not normal music for praising God. And then he saw the scene: drunkenness, nakedness, and lascivious dancing! This is what characterized Israelite’s “party” as they worshiped the golden calf. And these are the things that are associated with worldliness even today. Ungodly music, drunkenness and nakedness go together--such are the elements of paganism. The Scripture says the Israelites were "unrestained to their shame" (Ex. 32:25).

God Desires a Separated, Holy People

Sadly, God brought judgment on Israel for their idolatry, and 3000 men of Israel were slain for their worship of the golden calf. I have often wondered why Aaron wasn't one of them that perished, for his role in the whole debacle. At any rate, God wants us to be holy, uniquely different than the world, separated unto godliness, and very careful in the way we worship. May those of us who name the name of Christ heed the admonition of Rom. 13:13, "Let us walk soberly (properly), as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust (lasciviousness). But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts". That sure is good advice for Christians living in our carnal culture today.

Richard Seefried
Harrisonburg, VA
Richard Seefried has a Master’s Degree in Christian Ministry, and is licensed & certified by the NCCA as a clinical pastoral counselor.